Top Free Agents
OLB Phillip Wheeler
Wheeler had a remarkable season considering where he was last season. After spending a few years as a nondescript two down run stuffer in Indianapolis, Wheeler signed with the Raiders for less than a million dollars last off-season and was a bright spot on an otherwise miserable defense. The former Colt played every down and was ProFootballFocus’ 6th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker. He’s definitely earned himself some money, but it’s important to remember where he was last year and not give him too big of a pay increase percentage wise based on just one season.
DT Desmond Bryant
Here’s another bright spot from the Raiders’ defense. It sounds weird, but they could be even worse defensively next year if they can’t bring back guys like Wheeler and Bryant in free agency. Taking over for an injured Richard Seymour midway through the season, Bryant finished the year as ProFootballFocus’ 6th ranked defensive tackle. He excelled as a pass rusher and stopped the run alright as well. Like Wheeler, it’s important not to overpay him based on one year, but the Harvard product is not yet 28 (in December) and could be one of the real bargains of free agency this off-season at the right price.
P Shane Lechler
By his standards, Lechler struggled this year. He averaged 47.2 yards per punt, but only 39.5 net as only 24 of 81 were pinned inside the 20. He was ProFootballFocus’ 14th ranked punter this season. Still, if you look at his whole body of work, he’s one of the better punters in the NFL and, though punters don’t command a big salary, he should be paid among the best punters in the NFL.
DT Richard Seymour
Before he got hurt and Bryant took over, Seymour wasn’t playing too poorly himself. Despite very limited playing time thanks to an injury that ended his season week 9, Seymour ranked 12th among defensive tackles on ProFootballFocus. If healthy, he appears to still have something left in the tank and he has the versatility to play in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. The biggest issue is that he’ll be 33 in October and he’s coming off a major injury.
TE Brandon Myers
Another bright spot for the Raiders this season, Myers wasn’t thought of as much more than a blocker coming into the season and he ended up catching 79 passes for 806 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ironically, however, he was ProFootballFocus’ worst rated run blocking tight end this season. He’s not an explosive athlete and he only has one year of production, so he won’t command a large salary. Like Wheeler and Bryant, it’s important to remember to pay him not based off of just one season.
S Matt Giordano
Giordano was also a bright spot for the Raiders this season. Why are all of their bright spots free agents? The Raiders were able to move big money safety Michael Huff where he was needed most because Giordano had always been impressive as a 3rd safety behind Huff and Tyvon Branch. When given an opportunity to start, he didn’t disappoint, as he was a functional starting safety. However, the Raiders probably want to keep Huff at safety long term, so Giordano might have to go elsewhere in search of a starting job.
OT Khalif Barnes
Barnes was one of several Raiders who struggled with the switch to a zone blocking scheme this season. In the Raiders’ power blocking scheme in 2011, he graded out as an above average starter, but he struggled this year when he was on the field and also missed a significant amount of time with injuries. You can do worse than him as your starting right tackle in the right scheme and with the Raiders moving back to a power blocking scheme, they could opt to retain him as a starter, but they may also try to upgrade the position.
CB Joselio Hanson
Another bright spot for the Raiders who is a free agent, Hanson was a final cut of the Eagles in September, but the cap tight Raiders brought him in and made him their nickel back and he graded out above average. He’s limited mainly to the slot, but he’s one of the better slot specialist cornerbacks in the NFL and there’s always a need for a guy like that.
G Cooper Carlisle
Carlisle was actually alright as a starter for the Raiders this season as he was one of the few who actually improved in the new zone blocking scheme. However, at age 36 in August and with the Raiders going back to a power blocking scheme he struggled in back in 2011, he might be done with the Raiders and maybe done in the NFL entirely. At the very least, he shouldn’t get anything more than a cheap one year deal.
QB Matt Leinart
RB Mike Goodson
FB Owen Schmitt
WR Derek Hagan
DE Matt Shaughnessy
DE Andre Carter
MLB Omar Gaither
CB Ronald Bartell
CB Shawntae Spencer
S Michael Mitchell
Candidates for release
DT Tommy Kelly
He was better down the stretch, but he still ended up as ProFootballFocus’ 74th ranked defensive tackle out of 85. Heading into his age 33 season in 2013, he’s not worth the 6.5 million he’s due and the cap strapped Raiders probably won’t bring him back. He should catch on somewhere else though on a short term contract.
WR Darius Heyward-Bey
Darius Heyward-Bey had a strong year in 2011, catching 64 passes for 975 yards, but those account for almost half of his production in his four year career. In the other 3 seasons, he’s caught a combined 76 passes for 1096 yards. It’s also a bad sign that he had that breakout year and then regressed this year, catching just 41 passes for 606 yards and doing so on 80 targets. Owed 7.721 million in 2013, he’s not expected to be back. The Raiders have financial issues and despite all their needs, they actually have solid receiving depth. Rod Streater can step into the starting lineup for him and Jacoby Ford and Juron Criner can provide solid depth. Someone else will snatch Heyward-Bey up, however.
MLB Rolando McClain
Like Darrius Heyward-Bey, McClain is a former top-10 pick of the Raiders who is expected to be gone this off-season. He’s been okay on the field, but he’s had off the field issues, including legal issues and issues with the coaching staff and the only reason he wasn’t cut mid-season was because of the cap hit the Raiders would have endured, according to GM Reggie McKenzie. Owed 4.005 million in 2013, he won’t be back. Like I said, he can play, but a lot of teams won’t give him a look because of the other stuff. Someone should sign him, however. He’s not even 24 until July.